Transforming the role of line managers

Line managers play a crucial role in promoting the positive employee wellbeing of others. As the workplace continues to evolve at a rapid pace, there is pressure on line managers to deliver business objectives at the same time as supporting the wellbeing of employees. The Quality of Working Life report 2012 from the Chartered Management Institute shows that more managers are experiencing stress-related ill-health and symptoms of psychological ill-health.

It is vital that line managers receive the best possible support to help them manage these responsibilities effectively. Line managers should be empowered to make a greater positive impact on employee wellbeing.

There is a clear correlation between employee wellbeing and business performance. Improved engagement is estimated to be worth as much as £25 billion to the UK economy (Sainsbury’s Centre for Mental Health, 2007). Line managers are among those most severely affected by increasing workplace pressures, with the average manager working an extra 46 days each year and over half of the managers concerned about the impact of long hours on their mental health (CMI Quality of Working Life, 2012).
Businesses need to ensure that line managers have what they need to maintain their own wellbeing, in order to positively influence the wellbeing of others.

Senior leaders have a responsibility to create an open culture, helping employees recognise wellbeing as a critical issue, empowering line managers to make this a priority. Good job design is critical in providing line managers with the autonomy to manage employee wellbeing, businesses need to help line managers take a proactive approach to wellbeing and address any issues at an early stage.  Line managers also need a core understanding of mental health issues and need to feel able to act confidently as the first point of support. This also relates to strong emotional and interpersonal skills, as these are important for good management practice and in building relationships.

Key recommendations to transform the role of line managers.
All recommendations are aligned to the Workwell model.


Working Well

Recommendations for business

  • Sign the Time to Change pledge and develop an action plan that includes transforming the capabilities of line managers to support wellbeing.
  • Set specific goals related to improving the capacity of your line managers to promote mental wellbeing.
  • Develop robust governance and reporting arrangements to ensure your strategy and goals are implemented and monitored.

Better Physical and Psychological Health

Recommendations for business

  • Provide all line managers with a full induction on their organisation’s wellbeing approach and facilities, so they can promote the various channels and resources available to their staff.
  • Incentivise line managers to act as role models and ambassadors for organisational wellbeing approaches, and encourage an open culture around mental health through their own practices.

Better Work

Recommendations for business

  • Ensure that job design is informed by employee consultation, and that processes for reviewing job design incorporate employee wellbeing.
  • Review the role descriptions for line managers, to ensure that their job design includes wellbeing as a key function.
  • Review engagement processes, to ensure line managers are well equipped, but not solely responsible for cascading wellbeing information

Better Relationships

Recommendations for business

  • Recruit and promote line managers with strong interpersonal and communication skills to promote wellbeing.
  • Include interpersonal skills as a key component of line manager training, so that line managers can develop an inclusive, approachable manner.
  • Line manager appraisals should include a focus on the wellbeing of the people they manage.

Better Specialist Support

Recommendations for business

  • Equip line managers with the skills to look after their own mental wellbeing such as resilience and mindfulness.
  • Provide all line managers with basic mental health training, including how to spot the signs of stress, anxiety and depression amongst their staff.
  • Develop clear, simple referral pathways for internal and external specialist support, including self-referral options.